Altered central nervous system signal during motor performance in chronic fatigue syndrome

Clin Neurophysiol. 2004 Oct;115(10):2372-81. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2004.05.012.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether brain activity of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients during voluntary motor actions differs from that of healthy individuals.

Methods: Eight CFS patients and 8 age- and gender-matched healthy volunteers performed isometric handgrip contractions at 50% maximal voluntary contraction level. They first performed 50 contractions with a 10 s rest between adjacent trials--'Non-Fatigue' (NFT) task. Subsequently, the same number of contractions was performed with only a 5 s rest between trials--'Fatigue' (FT) task. Fifty-eight channels of surface EEG were recorded simultaneously from the scalp. Spectrum analysis was performed to estimate power of EEG frequency in different tasks. Motor activity-related cortical potential (MRCP) was derived by triggered averaging of EEG signals associated with the muscle contractions.

Results: Major findings include: (i) Motor performance of the CFS patients was poorer than the controls. (ii) Relative power of EEG theta frequency band (4-8 Hz) during performing the NFT and FT tasks was significantly greater in the CFS than control group (P < 0.05). (iii) The amplitude of MRCP negative potential (NP) for the combined NFT and FT tasks was higher in the CFS than control group (P < 0.05) (iv) Within the CFS group, the NP was greater for the FT than NFT task (P<0.01), whereas no such difference between the two tasks was found in the control group.

Conclusions: These results clearly show that CFS involves altered central nervous system signals in controlling voluntary muscle activities, especially when the activities induce fatigue.

Significance: Physical activity-induced EEG signal changes may serve as physiological markers for more objective diagnosis of CFS.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Central Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*